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Editorials Feb. 3

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Crises true and false We are so accustomed legislators manufacturing “crises” to justify the granting of more favors to special interests — “tort reform,” electricity deregulation, etc. — that we’re surprised when one of them recognizes a real crisis and proposes to do something about it. Must be a new hand. In fact, the principal sponsor of HB 1241 is a freshman, Rep. Dustin McDaniel, D-Jonesboro. HB 1241 is an effort to help elderly and low-income Arkansans afford the prescription drugs they need. Drug prices are a crisis by any standard except the drug companies’ and the Bush administration’s. McDaniel’s bill is a fairly complicated proposal for the state government to negotiate rebates with manufacturers on certain prescription drugs, then pass the savings along to consumers. It is based on laws in other states. The bill may need tweaking, and it probably doesn’t go far enough or it would be generating more opposition, but it looks like a step in the right direction. SB 230 by Sen. Bob Johnson, D-Bigelow, is a step in the same old direction. It would take away public water utilities’ right of eminent domain in order to please a big corporation, Deltic Timber, that is at odds with the Little Rock water utility. McDaniel has 15 co-sponsors for his bill. Johnson has 20, a majority of the Senate, for his. Breaking into school No amount of increased financial aid for the schools, no upgrading of facilities, could offset the harm that would be done by letting the legislature dictate curriculum. It was not too many years ago that legislators wanted to put “creation science” in the classroom alongside real science, to value ignorance equally with learning. To turn the educational process upside down, in other words. The federal courts saved Arkansas that time, but some lawmakers are trying to force the schoolhouse doors again. Rep. Roy Ragland, R-Marshall, is the sponsor of HB 1136, which would require that public school textbooks that define marriage define it “only as a relationship between one man and one woman.” The bill also prohibits any textbook definition of marriage that is contrary to the language of Amendment 83 of the Arkansas Constitution, which defines marriage as a “union” of one man and one woman. Adopted by voters last November, Amendment 83 is an anti-gay proposal that voters will repeal one day. It is no good excuse for legislators to start editing textbooks. (Eighty-three amendments, goodness! Arkansas is short of a lot of things, but we’re flush with school districts and constitutional amendments.) Let them get the bit in their teeth, and who knows where they’ll stop. Abortion, religion, evolution again — the possibilities are endless for legislators like Ragland to impose their own views on the state’s schoolchildren. The kids deserve better.

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